Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Half-assed Halloween

If you follow me on Twitter (@ParentingGeekly) you may have seen some of my “half-assed cosplay” posts last week.  See, I have this idea that homemade costumes are the best costumes.  I feel this way despite my lack of sewing skills and complete absence of attention to detail.  Every year I “half ass” it, and every year we get a bunch of compliments.  I am a crazy perfectionist, convinced that  everyone will mock my hot glue and hem tape efforts, and then surprised when they turn out okay-ish.
Anything has to be better than this, an actual costume I wore circa 1985.
Why am I sharing this humble-brag?  Because you can half-ass cosplay too!  It just takes an idea, a little creative thinking and a good attitude.  Seriously, half of the costumes I am going to share started when one of the kids had an idea, which I promptly shot down for being too hard or too complicated.  It was their insistence that kept my gears turning, which eventually led to successful costumes.

My tips:
  • Set a budget.  Once you get started it can be hard to reign it in.  Suddenly, *everything* in the craft store looks like it might work, and the next thing you know, you have spent $150 to be Mincecraft Steve.
  • Let go of perfectionism.  Half-assed cosplay is, by definition, half-assed.  It may not win an award at comicon, but it may just win your office Halloween party.  The average joe isn’t going to nitpick that your homemade NInja Turtle shell had 12 segments instead of 10.
  • Make it durable, to a point.  Half-assed cosplay is meant to be worn once or twice.  Ours usually involve a lot of hot glue and cardboard.  Some, like my Thor costume are mostly reusable, others, like my dirndl will not stand up to more than a few wearings.  The costumes need to last for your event though, so make sure if it’s going to rain little Timmy has something more long-lasting than a toilet paper mummy costume  for trick or treating.
  • Pinterest is your frenemy. Chances are, if you have an idea, someone has already made it. The problem is that the person who made it, and took the time to put a detailed tutorial on the internet, probably did not half-ass it.  Use the internet for inspiration, but be innovative! Don’t get too caught up in trying to do things the way those ladies from that cosplay reality show did it, because you will wind up disappointed.

Here are a few of our costumes and how I made them:

Sugar Skull and Voodoo Guy  (and my bestie's Mermaid costume).
This one just required raiding my closet for some leftover clothing from my goth phase and a lot of practice with makeup.  I did this one in 2010, before it was popular (hipster!) and so I had to base the makeup on some Dia de los Muertos pin up art.  Super Dad invested in a Goodwill vest, a re-purposed alligator tooth necklace from an old  pirate costume and the face makeup from my costume. My friend Karen took a store bought mermaid costume and added her own wig, some jeweled decals from a nail art kit (applied with eyelash glue) and a quick trip to the drugstore for some makeup.

Tony Stark, Team Fortress 2 Sniper and Wonder Woman
Kit’s Wonder Woman costume was bought from the clearance department because it was missing all of its accessories.  I think my mother found it for about $3.  We made the tiara from gold cardstock, the bracelets from glittered foam sheets and the lasso from the same gold elastic cording that kept the tiara on her head.  The boots were bought from Goodwill, and built up with duct tape, spray painted blue, and then trimmed with more duct tape, in white.

Super-Dad’s Tony Stark Costume was created around an expensive t-shirt from ThinkGeek that lights up to look like the Arc Reactor is embedded in his chest.  He already owned the coat, and the goatee.  The only other accessory we had to get him were the sunglasses, which were purchased for 99 cents at a second hand store.

Nate is the Sniper from Team Fortress 2

The shirt and vest both came from the ladies’ department at the thrift store, the pants came from the boy’s department (and were a little short - let go of perfectionism)  I made his side pouch from felt and hot glue, and we modified an Indiana Jones hat by gluing the flap up.  The alligator tooth necklace makes its final appearance as hat trim.

Tony Stark(again), Pinkie Pie, and Aperture Scientist

We had to buy another pair of sunglasses for Super-Dad, but we were glad to get another wearing out of that expensive shirt.

Nathan has on a lab coat purchased from a Medical Uniform Shop for under $20.  We created the Aperture logo using Inkjet Iron on Paper, he also had a bigger aperture on the back.  He carried a clip board with a “Test Subject Questionnaire” that we created.

Kit’s Pinkie Pie costume was one I wasn't sure I could pull off.  It came together when we decided to do something that was kind of inspired by Equestria Girls, but stayed true to the look of “regular” Pinkie Pie.  I hand stitched the Cutie Mark onto a store bought skirt, added leggings and leg warmers, made a felt Gummy the Crocodile with felt and glue.  With used silk flowers to suggest a curly mane/ears and sprayed her hair pink.


I have before and after pics for this one, because I knew that if I pulled it off it would be a pretty big transformation. This was created for an Oktoberfest party, and will be reworked into Little Red Riding Hood this Halloween. I started with a thrift store “Medieval Bar Wench Costume”.  I added the green ribbon lacing, some ribbon trim and some appliques. All hot glued on.  The apron had a frilly top, which I hacked off, and then added some matching ribbon to the waist.  I cut off most of  the clingy polyester red skirt that was attached to the bodice and wore a plain black skirt over it.  I borrowed Kitty’s flower headband and braided my hair into a crown to complete the look.

Luke Skywalker

This was my first attempt at making a costume.  He wore an all black outfit and some black costume gloves.  The cloak was an unhemmed piece of fleece cut to size and pinned on with a safety pin. We had the lightsaber.  Everyone thought he was Harry Potter.

Lady Thor
Probably my favorite costume ever.  We had the toy headpiece, I made the Power Discs out of silver cardstock and stuck them to a black dress I already had using double-sided tape.  The cape was unhemmed velour, cleverly pinned on using hidden safety pins.  I layered the whole thing over a  long sleeve blue t-shirt.  The cuffs are glittered foam sheets with fake leather lacing.

The Tenth Doctor

Nate won “Coolest Kid Costume” at Super-Dad’s office party with this one.  We bought the Sonic Screwdriver from the comic shop.  The trench was thrifted (once again from the ladies’ department) and we bought some cheap Keds knockoffs for under 10 dollars.

I hope you have found inspiration in this post!  Most of these were made at the last minute, you still have time to half-ass your own costume!  If you do, or if you have, please post a link to photo in the comments!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: A Parent's Guide

Last week we were invited by Disney to check out “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day”, their new family film staring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.

Alexander is sick and tired of being the non-perfect member of his perfect family. Dad is a baby-and-me-going, birthday-party-planning, stay-at-home-super-dad aka “Fommy” (Father Mommy as coined by his yoga instructor). Mom is a hot shot at book publisher, his older brother is handsome and popular, and his older sister is the angelic voiced star of the school play. His baby brother is an adorable and because of his age, needs (and gets) a lot of attention.

The main conflict comes when a popular boy at Alexander’s school announces that he is throwing a huge birthday party the same day Alexander had planned his. Not only is Alexander’s crush planning on attending the rival’s party, so is Alexander’s best friend! Feeling jealous and sad, Alexander makes a wish on his birthday candle that his “perfect” family would understand what it’s like to have a day as bad as one of his.

And WHAT a bad day each of them has! As a parent I really, really laughed at the challenges Alexander’s Dad felt having to drag the baby to a job interview at a way younger-skewing video game company. Alexander’s mom has to commute across town on a bicycle in high heels to prevent a disastrous book reading with a mis-printed children’s book.

His siblings don’t fare much better. His sister, trying to soothe a flu before opening night, drinks a bit too much cough syrup and performs Peter Pan while inebriated. His brother suffers a misunderstanding with his girlfriend and then fails his driver’s exam in the most spectacular fashion possible.

So, should you bring your 5 year old to see “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day”?

I brought Super-Dad and seven year old Kitty along. Kit had a hard time waiting for the punchlines. It all just seemed very extreme and mildly upsetting to her, she was just a bit too young to really enjoy the schadenfreude inherent in a comedy of errors. There were definitely moments where she laughed, but they weren't as frequent as SD and I. Some of the themes were a bit too more mature for her as well. Certainly nothing too objectionable, just a little “old” for her. There was a bit of cyberbullying, some rough language “crap, idiot”, and the young teen sister accidentally gets drunk on cough syrup.

Younger kids may not get some of the more subtle aspects of the movie messages; like how members of the family can have trouble seeing and empathizing with the problems others are having. While Alexander is convinced his family lives perfect lives, in reality they all have their own “No Good” worries. Dad is worried about finding a job, while mom is worried that a new opportunity at work will leave her even less time for her family. Big Brother Anthony is struggling to placate a status-hungry girlfriend. Sister Emily has a lot of pressure on her from her school’s Drama Director. Everyone is so caught up in their own issues it’s hard for them to see that each of their family members are having their own problems. Bigger kids hopefully will understand that the message here is that NO ONE has a perfect day. The resolution of the film actually comes when the family is able to come together to handle their “Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day” as a team.

14 year old Nate, was having his own “terrible, no good day” on a mandated tent camping trip with school. It’s a shame, too. I think that this movie is perfectly suited for his age. While there is nothing too objectionable for younger kids, I think kids 10 - 14 and their parents will get the most enjoyment from this adorable flick.
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